Unplanned Development

Tracking Change in South-East Asia

Jonathan Rigg


A fascinating and fresh view into the realities of development planning.
Unplanned Development offers a fascinating and fresh view into the realities of development planning. While to the outsider most development projects present themselves as thoroughly planned endeavours informed by structure, direction and intent, Jonathan Rigg exposes the truth of development experience that chance, serendipity, turbulence and the unexpected define development around the world.

Based on rich empirical sources from South-East Asia, Unplanned Development sustains a unique general argument in making the case for chance and turbulence in development. Identifying chance as a leading factor in all development planning, the book contributes to a better way of dealing with the unexpected and asks vital questions on the underlying paradoxes of development practice.

Author Bio

Jonathan Rigg is a development geographer at Durham University. He is also the author of An Everyday Geography of the Global South (2007), Living with Transition in Laos (2005), Southeast Asia: The human landscape of modernisation and development (2003) and, edited with Peter Vandergeest, Revisiting Rural Places: Pathways to poverty and prosperity in Southeast Asia (2012).

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. The hidden geometries of development
  • 2. From development plans to development planning
  • 3. State and market perfections and imperfections
  • 4. The teleology of development: history and technology
  • 5. The power of ordinary events in shaping development
  • 6. Fertility decline and its consequences in Asia
  • 7. Contingent development
  • Notes
  • Bibliography


'A critical book for our times. Intensifying global problems and development crises mark the failure of grand theories and models beloved by planners while calling for new thinking able to grasp the contingency and complexity of development. Based on extensive experience in South-East Asia, the author of this study breaks new ground by reframing development as an outcome of the unplanned, unseen and unexpected. This superb work provides new conceptual tools for a better understanding of the paradoxes of development even as it enables the reader to see how 'ordinary' events and people are more central to development processes than hitherto thought. Highly recommended!'
Professor Raymond L. Bryant, King's College London

'This is a book with a powerful and disruptive message. Above all, Jonathan Rigg's superbly crafted and thoroughly documented critique warns us against prediction and prescription in the study and practice of development. This is a celebration of human agency and diversity, and also a warning for all those inclined to take a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding or shaping social, economic, political and environmental change in Asia.'
Philip Hirsch, The University of Sydney

'Rigg offers a trenchant critique of the hubris of grand theories that claim to know and predict the direction of historical change, showing how they are often misguided or completely wrong. He exposes the strangeness of our stubborn commitment to planned change, despite its remarkably poor track record. Through richly empirical accounts of what actually happened in Southeast Asia...he shows that the driving forces were context-specific and often surprising. His book is a manifesto for grounded scholarship and a more modest style of intervention, attentive to the what, where, how, and why of the little and big shifts through which history is made, and to the desires and practices of the people who make it. A stimulating read - highly recommended.'
Tania Li, University of Toronto


Publication Date: 11 October 2012
256 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781848139886
Hardback: 9781848139893
eBook ePub: 9781848139916
eBook PDF: 9781848139909
eBook Kindle: 9781780324777

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